Sunday, April 15, 2018

Foxes & black bears & . . . armadillos?

                                                                                                       APLNJ pic
With their springtime departure from dens, NJ’s black bears have opened 2018’s “bear season” – this one, we pray, with no bear hunt!  It’s wonderful to contemplate a year when the moms, cubs and males out there may live to hibernate again in the fall.

Not yet ravenously hungry or foraging for food, “spring bears” start out in a state of “walking hibernation.”  Their lethargy gradually lessens as habitats start greening up and new grass, herbs and leaves become available.  Only in June will they seriously start fattening up for winter, as well as seeking to mate.

When bear sightings occur, as they will, do not call DFW (see fox story below)!  Doing so, says a rep of the Bear Group (, is a potential death sentence besides being logged (however inaccurately) as a bear nuisance complaint.  That in turn feeds DFW’s “records” justifying the division’s bear “management” plans (think “hunt”).  

Instead, call the Bear Group (973-315-3219), which also does home visits for those wanting to know how to bear-proof their surroundings.  

Above all, do not feed bears!  That can happen inadvertently, by leaving bird feeders outside, feeding pets outdoors, failing to securely fasten garbage cans.  In most cases, just enjoy the moment of a bear sighting; black bears are shy and retiring creatures, one source stresses, and “they will generally turn and amble away when approached.”  Otherwise, use aversive conditioning techniques – like waving arms, shouting, using noise-makers. 

And this comparison is comforting: “According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, for every person killed by a black bear in North America, 60 are killed by domestic dogs, 180 by bees, and 350 by lightning.”  Lately in New Jersey, bears have had much more to fear from people than the opposite.

Foxes for birds

A recent newspaper story revealed why foxes in Brigantine seem to be disappearing:  they’re being killed by NJ’s Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to help protect endangered shorebirds like the piping plover and red knot.

                                                                               DFW pic
For the last four years, DFW has contracted with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to “handle population control” by trapping and euthanizing foxes “by a gun” – what the press officer described as “humane control.”  Before that, DFW did the same thing on its own -- as well as sometimes trapping foxes on municipal beaches with local officials’ OK.

If there was follow up to this story, I missed it.  So I’m left wondering who made the call to protect the birds and kill the foxes?  Can a person or a state or federal agency do so unilaterally?  Was there public notification when it started?  (That people reportedly wondered what’s been happening to the foxes suggests not.)  Finally, with DFW’s disclosure of what it’s been up to, what, if anything, will happen now? 

Armadillos – say what?  

Well, yes, armadillos.  After all, we looked at pangolins months ago, so today it’s armadillos – giant ones, at that.  Until a recent Dodo story, I hadn’t given a thought to them since Rango, a movie that featured one, among other zany characters.

Giant Armadillo
Native to South America, these big guys can weigh up to 180 pounds and head to tail, occupy nearly five feet.  Their name means “little armoured one” in Spanish and together with their size and elusiveness, they’re definitely not cuddly pets.

Overall, armadillos can range from chipmunk size (“pink fairy armadillo”) to giant, with a wild looking “screaming hairy armadillo” somewhere there.  Great diggers with sharp claws and characterized by long noses, armadillos are related to sloths and anteaters.  No surprise there. 


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  1. I hope I never meet a bear in the wild but if I do I'm glad to have the right number to call.

  2. ! just be sure to call it LOUD!